The simplest step for not being tired is to make sure that you get enough hours of high-quality sleep every night. However, many factors can influence both your sleep and your daytime energy level, so sometimes it can be a challenge to figure out how not to be tired.
It is natural to feel tired occasionally, especially if you have spent many consecutive hours awake. But excessive or persistent tiredness can quickly become a burden. For as many as 25% of people Trusted Source UpToDate More than 2 million healthcare providers around the world choose UpToDate to help make appropriate care decisions and drive better health outcomes. UpToDate delivers evidence-based clinical decision support that is clear, actionable, and rich with real-world insights. See Full Reference , daytime sleepiness interferes with their ability to stay alert and engaged at home, school, or work.
The best way to address daytime tiredness depends on its cause. While not getting enough sleep is the most frequent reason Trusted Source UpToDate More than 2 million healthcare providers around the world choose UpToDate to help make appropriate care decisions and drive better health outcomes. UpToDate delivers evidence-based clinical decision support that is clear, actionable, and rich with real-world insights. See Full Reference for daytime sleepiness, there are a variety of other habits and medical conditions that can contribute to drowsiness.
Understanding the cause of sleepiness can help you take steps to feel more alert. Practical tips can also enhance your sleep each night and help you not feel tired during the day.
What Does It Mean When You Are Tired?
In many cases, tiredness is the body’s way of signaling that it needs sleep.
Scientists believe that whether a person feels tired or alert at any given time is mainly driven by two processes in the body Trusted Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) As the nation’s health protection agency, CDC saves lives and protects people from health threats. See Full Reference : circadian rhythms and the homeostatic sleep drive.
- Circadian rhythms: Circadian rhythms are 24-hour patterns that regulate processes within the body, like the timing of hormonal fluctuations, changes in body temperature, and when people fall asleep and wake up. Circadian rhythms are meant to be in sync with environment cues, especially light. These rhythms help explain why people usually get tired in the evening Trusted Source National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) NINDS aims to seek fundamental knowledge about the brain and nervous system and to use that knowledge to reduce the burden of neurological disease. See Full Reference when there is no sunlight.
- Homeostatic sleep drive: The basic principle of the homeostatic sleep drive is that the longer a person goes without sleep, the more likely they are to feel tired. The sleep drive is believed to be at least partly powered by adenosine, a substance in the brain that builds up during waking hours and diminishes during sleep.
Feeling tired can be the result of circadian shifts, such as the body’s natural production of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin in the evening. Circadian rhythms can also cause a dip in alertness Trusted Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) As the nation’s health protection agency, CDC saves lives and protects people from health threats. See Full Reference in the afternoon, usually between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m., causing many people to feel like they need a nap around this time.
In addition, tiredness often develops from an accumulating sleep drive, and this may be especially notable after a period of sleep deprivation. Missing even a few hours of sleep can cause a person to wake up feeling tired and struggle to stay alert Trusted Source National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) The NHLBI is the nation's leader in the prevention and treatment of heart, lung, blood and sleep disorders. See Full Reference during the day. Multiple nights of partial sleep loss can add up, resulting in a sleep debt that can be just as debilitating as skipping an entire night of sleep.
There are diverse reasons Trusted Source Medline Plus MedlinePlus is an online health information resource for patients and their families and friends. See Full Reference why people may not get the amount of sleep they need, including:
- Work, school, or social events in the evening
- Excess noise, light, or other distractions in the bedroom
- Stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues
- The side effects of medications
- Use of caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol
- Sleep disorders
- Underlying medical conditions
Sleep Habits to Help You Not Be Tired
Not getting enough sleep is the most frequent cause of feeling tired during the day, so an initial step toward not being tired is to make sure you are setting yourself up to sleep well. Sleep hygiene is a way of describing everyday habits that improve your nighttime rest.
One key to improving your sleep hygiene is to make sure you set aside enough time to get the recommended amount of sleep each night. While this may sound simple, more than 30% of adults Trusted Source National Library of Medicine, Biotech Information The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information. See Full Reference sleep less than seven hours each night. Prioritizing sleep in your schedule is necessary to help avoid the tiredness that comes from sleep deprivation.
While many people associate sleep habits only with nighttime behaviors, good sleep hygiene actually starts in the morning. To improve your sleep health, try getting up at the same time every day, catching some early morning light, and fitting in enjoyable physical activities.
- Wake up at a consistent time: While it may be tempting to sleep in later on weekends, large shifts in your sleep patterns can unsettle your circadian rhythms. If you decide to get up early or to sleep in, try not to shift your habitual sleep schedule by more than an hour.
- Soak up morning light: Well-timed exposure to light can help align your circadian rhythms Trusted Source Administration for Community Living The Administration for Community Living was created around the fundamental principle that older adults and people of all ages with disabilities should be able to live where they choose, with the people they choose, and with the ability to participate fully in their communities. See Full Reference to the natural cycle of daylight and darkness. Research suggests that exposure to natural light in the morning may help you feel more energized during the day and fall asleep earlier at night.
- Get active: Physical activity is associated with an abundance of health benefits, including improved sleep. Experts recommend starting small and working towards 150 minutes Trusted Source Medline Plus MedlinePlus is an online health information resource for patients and their families and friends. See Full Reference of activity each week. But it is best to avoid more strenuous and stimulating exercise too close to bedtime.
As evening approaches, create a routine Trusted Source Medline Plus MedlinePlus is an online health information resource for patients and their families and friends. See Full Reference that prepares you for restful sleep. Make time to turn down the lights, relax, and avoid things that can disrupt your sleep.
- Relax: Try scheduling at least an hour in the evening for quiet activities that help you wind down. Try out different activities to find what works best for you, like journaling, reading, or taking a warm bath. To further enhance relaxation, consider using relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation.
- Be careful what you consume: Eating too late, smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, or consuming caffeine can interfere with your sleep. Try eating dinner more than two hours before bedtime, cutting back on cigarettes and other tobacco products, and avoiding alcohol late in the day. Also, avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening, since it can linger in the body for up to eight hours.
- Minimize light sources: Your circadian rhythms are highly sensitive to light exposure in the hours right before bedtime. It may help to switch off or dim lamps and other light sources as you wind down. This also means turning off computers, smartphones, and TVs before bed, since the blue light emitted by screens can increase the time it takes to fall asleep.
Healthy sleep hygiene also involves designing your bedroom for restful sleep. Set your bedroom to a cool yet comfortable temperature, and keep your sleep space free from noises, lights, or distractions that may wake you up at night.
Finally, try to establish an association between your bed and solid sleep. This means trying not to eat, work, or watch TV in bed. In addition, do your best not to lie awake in bed for more than 20 or 30 minutes. If you are having a hard time falling asleep, get out of bed and find a way to relax until you feel tired again.
Other Tips to Avoid Being Tired
In addition to improving your sleep hygiene, there are several tips that may help you combat daytime drowsiness or find the source of chronic tiredness.
Try a Midday Nap
Although not a substitute Trusted Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) As the nation’s health protection agency, CDC saves lives and protects people from health threats. See Full Reference for quality sleep, napping can be a helpful tool for reducing daytime sleepiness. Research shows that, when used wisely, naps can help you make up for sleep debt, feel more alert, and improve your daytime performance.
To get the most out of a nap, find a comfortable place to rest, set an alarm, and use ear plugs and an eye mask to minimize distractions. Experts suggest limiting most naps to around 20 minutes. They also recommend against naps after around 3 p.m. in order to avoid interfering with nighttime sleep.
While most daytime naps should be short, naps lasting longer than 90 minutes may help to relieve sleepiness for certain people, including many frontline medical workers and people who regularly work extended shifts.
Tiredness can result from dehydration Trusted Source Medline Plus MedlinePlus is an online health information resource for patients and their families and friends. See Full Reference , so make sure that you are drinking plenty of fluids during the day. Water is an easy and calorie-free way to stay hydrated, though some of your daily liquids can also come from other drinks and foods that contain high amounts of water, like fruits and vegetables.
Some experts recommend that adults try to consume around 2 to 3 liters of water a day Trusted Source National Library of Medicine, Biotech Information The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information. See Full Reference . You should generally also increase your fluid consumption during hot weather, after exercise, and when you are ill with vomiting, diarrhea, or a fever.
Although drinking coffee and tea can increase your fluid intake and provide a temporary boost in energy, these drinks should be used with caution if they contain caffeine. To avoid disrupting sleep at night, try not to drink caffeinated beverages within eight hours of your bedtime.
Check Your Diet
What you eat can affect how well you sleep and how alert you feel during the day. For instance, having low blood sugar can make you feel tired, but so can consuming too many foods and drinks that are high in sugar Trusted Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) As the nation’s health protection agency, CDC saves lives and protects people from health threats. See Full Reference .
For overall nutrition, experts recommend moderating your intake of saturated and trans fats, added sugar and salt, and red meat. Instead, they suggest focusing on a diet that includes:
- A wide variety of foods
- Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
- Poultry, fish, legumes, and eggs
When considering significant dietary changes, it is important to talk with your doctor, who can offer specific guidance about your nutritional goals and how to meet them.
Get a Checkup
A checkup with your doctor can help find the cause of unexplained tiredness. Your doctor can review your sleep habits with you to look for issues that may be making you tired. Your doctor can also check for medical conditions that can lead to excessive daytime sleepiness.
Many sleep disorders can cause people to be tired during the day, including:
- Sleep apnea
- Circadian rhythm disorders
- Restless leg syndrome
Other medical conditions commonly associated with tiredness include:
- Neurologic disorders such as migraine headaches and epilepsy
- Heart disease
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Autoimmune disorders
- Liver and kidney diseases
- Hormone-related disorders such as hypothyroidism
- Gastroesophageal reflux
- Vitamin deficiencies
Your doctors can also discuss any medications that may be affecting your daytime alertness. Prescription medications associated with tiredness include:
- Antiseizure drugs
- Beta blockers
Additionally, several over-the-counter medications and supplements can cause daytime sleepiness, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antihistamines, melatonin, valerian, and kava.
Talk to a Counselor
Daytime tiredness is associated with several mental health conditions, so it may be helpful to check in with a mental health professional about your symptoms.
Tiredness may be linked to conditions such as depression and anxiety. A mental health professional can also address the use of or withdrawal from substances that may cause tiredness, including alcohol, marijuana, opioids, cocaine, and amphetamines.
Additionally, mental health professionals can help you improve your sleep hygiene. While improving sleep hygiene may sound simple, it can be challenging to change long-term habits that interfere with sleep. Counselors and other mental health professionals have a variety of tools to help you make lasting lifestyle changes.
When You Should Seek Medical Help for Sleepiness
It may be time to contact your doctor when sleepiness begins to interfere with your ability to function during the day. You should also talk with your doctor if you have other unaddressed health issues, changes to your sleep patterns, or significant tiredness that persists even if you improve your sleep hygiene.
In addition to evaluating you for medical conditions or side effects of medications that could be contributing to your tiredness, your doctor can also check for sleep disorders and refer you to a sleep specialist if needed.
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